Scraping UGC: False claims by govt to provide autonomy to educational institutes

Why does the government want to shut down the UGC and in what ways will the new commission be different from the present UGC—the government didn’t consider it necessary to issue an elaborate statement

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Apoorvanand

The Narendra Modi government is preparing for another major decision like demonetisation during the last few days of its tenure. It has made public a proposal to close the University Grants Commission (UGC) and form a higher education Commission. It has invited suggestions for the same by July 7. This flurry to wind-up an institution which has been functioning since 1956 itself exposes the non-serious attitude of the government.

Why does the government want to close it down and in what ways will the new commission be different from the present UGC—the government did not consider it necessary to issue an elaborate statement. It only reflects the government’s disposition because it is not used to thinking on the lines of a policy nor does it have any vision regarding economy or society. It’s necessary that the government has a vision for the society. We can say about this government which is now at its final phase, that it doesn’t intend to create or initiate something new, but it definitely wants to destroy whatever institutions exist.

People are usually misled that the government really has guts to take such a big step which is becoming clear now. A feeling of respect for the destroyer is inspired with this and an inferiority complex, too, that we are criticising the government for taking such a huge decision.

A government which has made the UGC literally its post office or a doormat, how can it form an autonomous organisation? This claim of bringing autonomy gets exposed by the selection process of the members and the chairman of the proposed commission.

However, it is told that the objective of forming an education commission is to end the government’s intervention. But coming from the government, this argument can only make one laugh. A government which through its ministry keeps telling the universities how high the national flag should be placed, which keeps issuing orders about celebrating yoga day, organising race for national unity, celebrate cleanliness day on Gandhi Jayanti, and about broadcasting the prime minister’s speech on teacher’s day and about building a ‘bravery wall’ in the premises of the universities—that government is committed to the autonomy of the educational institutions—there can be no bigger farce than this. Consider talking to the vice chancellors of various universities. They are surprised at the number of circulars they have been receiving from the UGC. All these circulars have constantly been issued instructing that these orders be followed.

A government which has made the UGC literally its post office or a door mat, how can it form an autonomous organisation? This claim of bringing autonomy gets exposed by the selection process of the members and the chairman of the proposed commission. The selection committee will be chaired by the cabinet secretary and the higher education secretary will be one of the members of the committee.

Obviously, this selection will entirely be according to the wishes of the government. The officials of the commission selected by the government will only be subservient to the government. It is futile to expect any kind of open-mindedness from them. Who will the selection committee send its proposal to—this has not been mentioned too. Will it send its proposal to the minister?

The proposal to have a new regulatory agency in place of the UGC is not new. But the previous recommendations had some solid grounds. In 2009, the Yashpal committee had said that higher education in India is fragmented into pieces and there is a lack of a vision for an overall policy. 

Besides this, a general council chaired by the human resource minister has also been proposed. This effectively means the government’s control over the entire policy making and functioning of higher education in India.

Moreover, three government secretaries will be included in this organisation. This again will strengthen the government’s control over decision making. Then what kind of autonomy are we thinking about?

The proposal to have a new regulatory agency in place of the UGC is not new. But the previous recommendations had some solid grounds. In 2009, the Yashpal committee had said that higher education in India is fragmented into pieces and there is a lack of a vision for an overall policy. There are different regulators for law, architecture, medicines, technical education, teachers’ training etc. They never come together and discuss education in its entirety.

The Yashpal committee said that there’s a need to consider education as one unit. Therefore, the conditions to find an entry in the educational institutes of medicines or architecture or law should be decided by the concerned regulator but how should the education be imparted in these institutions, this should not be decided by them. Yashpal was against the division between professional training and general education. He was emphasising that the institutes like IIT and IIM should also provide space and scope for education in various other fields in their premises. With this in mind, he was proposing that instead of different regulatory including the UGC there is a need for a broader regulatory. But if all the other regulators are existing all the same then why should only UGC get the axe?

Yashpal’s point of view was different from the government’s views. The present government holds that it will be decided by the new commission which institute will get how much autonomy and at what time. Yashpal believed that autonomy is a right of any educational institution. It is not a prize which the government would decide whom to give.

Yashpal wanted the education commission to be completely independent like the election commission. He was not in favour of government’s presence in any way in the commission.

The government is saying that the new commission will end the interference in the management of educational institutes. But every university functions following those laws though which it has been formed. Delhi University has a different act and Hyderabad University a different one. They are completely independent in determining the selection process of teachers and admission process of the students.

But over the last few years, the UGC has started interfering in every sphere. Why should the university take UGC’s permission before introducing the syllabus? Or why should the commission decide whether the university should appoint a professor or an assistant professor or the proportion between these two posts? The university should have the right to determine what kind of teachers it requires and at what time.

Today, the UGC has caused a chaos by introducing semester system or CBCS structure in every university. If all the universities run the same syllabus, then there would be no difference left among them. They will only have different names.

The government’s objective is to implement uniformity. Any statement of the government does not convey in any sense that it is concerned about imparting education or knowledge. It considers employment the most significant objective of education and instructs the universities to produce youngsters most suitable for the market. None of the prestigious universities of the world has this as its objective.

Neither Harvard, Oxford nor Princeton say that they will draw their curriculum according to the market needs. Only India the ‘vishva Guru’ says this. Or, more accurately India’s government and industrialists say this. We don’t even aspire for innovation and knowledge! We want to be content by producing only the carriers of knowledge.

If you recall the statements issued by the government and its various ministers then it will become clear that they are more concerned about spreading nationalism, respect for army, spreading of Indian culture and the methods to make students recall the ancient Indian

Knowledge. We have not witnessed any curiosity in them regarding new knowledge, innovations, new principles etc. Then it is natural to doubt the claim of bringing about policy-related improvements in higher education by this government during the last few months of its tenure.

Whatever this government did in JNU, Hyderabad University or Delhi University, or whatever its ministers and various organisations of the ruling party did in all these years of being in power, make it abundantly clear that they consider the premises of these institutions merely as a platform to spread their propaganda and recruits their own people.

And they want to do all this in the name of the national flag and nationalism. It is needless to say how potent a danger that government poses for the educational institutions and earning knowledge which claims that the education is being imparted with the help of taxpayers’ money and hence it will decide what kind of education to be imparted.

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